It was a dark and stormy night... But nothing could stop the hungry chowhounds from descending on Shangri-La. This was my first outing with the hounds and I couldn't wait to meet everyone and see what they looked like. I have to admit that I was not wild about the choice of the restaurant. We'd been to Shangri-La only once before and couldn't quite understand what the raves were about. I was hoping that Galleygirl would make me see the light, but she didn't come :( Chowcat, Catchow, and Ruby came to the rescue admirably and steered us in the right direction. The fish with dry bean sauce, crispy shrimp, and jelly fish made me appreciate Chinese food for the first time. Here is what we had:
Jelly Fish Salad -- we ordered this dish in honor of Galleygirl. We knew she'd be proud of us for trying something adventurous. This was my favorite appetizer. Jelly Fish was cut into strips that looked like clear noodles. It looked like something slimy, but it was actually a bit crunchy and very refreshing. Julienned cucumber was a perfect addition to this wonderful salad.
Pan Fried White Turnip Cake -- Pureed turnip shaped into one inch thick blocks and fried to crispy golden brown. Everyone seemed to really like this one. I liked the texture combination of crisp and smooth, but the flavor was a bit too turnipy for me.
Cold Noodles with Peanut Sauce -- this was a very simple but yummy dish. I think there was some sesame seed oil in the sauce.
Boiled Wontons with Spicy Sauce -- the thin wrappers fell apart a bit (maybe due to boiling instead of steaming), but the flavor was nice, and fresh sprouts made a good addition.
Green Beans Starch and Cucumber -- we actually expected this to taste like jelly fish tasted, but it was quite different. Wide strips of clear noodles were mixed with cucumber, and thick, slightly spicy peanut sauce. There was a little wasabi on the side that we mixed in with the noodles. I thought the sauce was overpowering this delicate dish, but it was still quite good, and one of Catchow's favorites.
Fish with Dry Bean Sauce -- this was the piece de resistance of the night (at least for me). A large thin carp fillet was baked until just done with a very flavorful sauce and a crunchy topping that turned out to be "Dry Bean." It tasted a bit like bread crumbs only much more flavorful. The fish was so moist it melted on the tongue, and the skin was the best fish skin I've ever had -- crispy without being burnt or dry. We actually ordered a whole fish in spicy sauce, but since they ran out of whole fish, they recommended fish with dry bean sauce. I've never been this happy about a restaurant running out of something.
Beef and Celery in Spicy sauce -- Thin strips of beef were mixed with strips of celery, peppers, and onions in spicy and slightly sweet sauce. The celery flavor was very pronounced. The meat lovers thought this was great.
Pork and Dried Been Curd with Chives -- I thought of tofu and pork combination to be kind of funny because most people who eat pork don't eat tofu and most people who eat tofu don't eat pork. But this dish was very good and the omnivores among us really enjoyed it. Pork was very tender and tofu looked and tasted a bit like noodles.
Ginger Chicken Casserole -- Chicken legs with skin and bone were cut into pieces and braised in dutch oven with basil, ginger, garlic, and soy sauce (or maybe some other brown sauce). Although you could taste the ginger, the main flavor here was basil. It was another very popular dish.
Sauteed Sprouts of Snow Peas -- very tender green vegetable resembling spinach cooked to perfection in a little broth (not mushy at all). This was fantastic.
Eggplant with Spicy Sauce -- very tender and creamy eggplant with basil and fermented bean sprouts. I think I wanted this dish to be a bit more salty, but the texture was wonderful.
Black Mushrooms and Chinese vegetables -- I think the mushrooms were reconstituted dry shiitake and the vegetables were baby bok choy (though they weren't stringy at all, so I am not sure). This was another outstanding veggie dish. The mushrooms had so much flavor, and the green veggie was perfectly cooked just like the Pea Sprouts.
Home Style Bean Curd with Vegetables -- I am not a tofu person, but this dish was a revelation. Large pieces of tofu were so flavorful with a nice golden crust and creamy inside--mmm... We even got the carnivores to eat more than one piece.
Crispy Shrimp in Shell with Spice Salt -- large juicy shrimp with shell in light batter were covered with crispy garlic and scallion bits. They were so good, I almost ate the tales.
This was the best Chinese meal I've ever had. I still couldn't get really inspired by the meats and chicken. I guess I like meat either rare or slow cooked, so stir fries don't do much for me. But the veggies, seafood, and tofu totally won me over. Thanks for a great evening :)
p.s. I am the only one without a chowhound name. I know they don't normally let people change their chowhound names, but this is for a good cause. In honor of the awesome fish dish at Shangri-La, I am changing my chowhound name to A Fish Called Wanda (a.k.a. Helen Rennie).